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Awards honours for 12 Headway Heroes Main Image

Awards honours for 12 Headway Heroes

Sat 06 Dec 2014

A partially-paralysed Guernsey swimmer, who fought to achieve numerous sporting achievements after meningitis left her with a debilitating brain injury, was among 12 dedicated people to be celebrated at this year's Headway Annual Awards ceremony.

Awards for Achiever, Carer, and Volunteer of the Year, along with The Stephen McAleese for Outstanding Contribution to Headway Award, recognise the outstanding achievements and contributions individuals have made to the charity on a local and national level.

The event was graced by stars from the worlds of television and sport, including James Cracknell, Johnson Beharry VC, former England and Arsenal footballer Alan Smith, Coronation Street actor Ben Price, and TV antiques expert Eric Knowles.

Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway, said: "For many associated with the charity, the Annual Awards luncheon is the highlight of the year. It's always a very special day where we can honour some very special people, who are representative of thousands of others across the UK working hard to improve life after brain injury.

"This year's event was perhaps the best yet and was a fabulous celebration of what can be achieved after brain injury. My thanks and congratulations to all our inspirational finalists and those that nominated them for their awards."

Achiever of the Year

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Sarah Whitchurch collects her award from James Cracknell and a representative of award sponsor Slater & Gordon LawyersSarah Whitchurch, from Guernsey, was crowned Achiever of the Year and presented with a special silver plate from Olympic double gold-medallist and Headway Vice President, James Cracknell.

When Sarah fell seriously ill with meningitis four days before her 11th birthday, she was put into a medically-induced coma and her parents, Jill and Hugh, were told to expect the worst.

The determined youngster clung to life but the illness left Sarah with a severe brain injury and partial-paralysis in her limbs. As part of her rehabilitation, Sarah re-discovered her love of swimming and used her passion for the sport as an incentive to improve her movement.

Despite not being able to kick her legs and suffering with limited dexterity in her hands, Sarah began competing - and winning - national swimming competitions. Now an ambassador for Headway Guernsey, Sarah has also completed a marathon and four half-marathons.

Joining Sarah as finalists in the Achiever category were Keith Emmanuel, from East London, and Joanne Davis, from Cambridgeshire.

Keith became an integral part of the Headway East London kitchen project in 2007 after he suffered a brain haemorrhage that left him with a devastating brain injury. With the support of his mother, Wendy, Keith is rebuilding his life and, as well as cooking for members of the Headway group, he has helped to raise an impressive £3,500 for the charity.

In 1999, Joanne sustained her brain injury when a road traffic incident left her in a month-long coma. Now married with a 12-year-old daughter, Joanne is learning how to make her own jewellery and helps run a peer support group at Headway Cambridgeshire.

Achiever of the Year winner Sarah Whitchurch said: "This weekend has been an incredible and very overwhelming experience.

"Each of the finalists has an inspirational story to tell, and it is a privilege to know I am representing thousands of people across the UK whose lives have been touched by brain injury.

"Everyone at Headway Guernsey will be delighted when I return to the group next week with a national award!"

Volunteer of the Year

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Terisa Burge collects her award from James Cracknell and a representative of award sponsor Anthony GoldThe Volunteer of the Year award went to Terisha Burge, from Bath.

Terisha had been treating a patient at the surgery where she worked as a dental hygienist in 1991 when she suffered a severe headache. The mother-of-two was rushed to hospital where it soon became apparent she had suffered a major brain haemorrhage that was to leave her with a devastating brain injury.

When she was finally well enough to return home, Terisha slowly began to regain control of her life and, along with her husband, Clive, she helped set-up Headway Bath and District.

For more than two decades, Terisha has dedicated her life to fundraising for the charity, raising an impressive total of £65,000 for the Headway group.

Terisha's fellow finalists were Ann Green, from Lewes, and Myrtle Matthews, from Belfast.

As one of the longest serving volunteers at Headway Hurstwood Park, Ann began supporting the charity in 1988 when the 12-year-old daughter of her friend, Jeremy Griffin, was hit by a car and sustained a severe brain injury. Ann has organised key events, outings and craft sessions for the charity, while supporting members with her positive spirit for nearly 25 years.

When Myrtle's husband, David, sustained a brain injury in 1979, she became an active volunteer at a weekly outreach programme organised by Headway Belfast. Her commitment to the programme led to her volunteering at two additional outreach groups in West Belfast, where she offers support to up to 20 people a week.

Having received her award from James Cracknell, Terisha said: "The dedicated efforts of my family and fellow fundraisers have been instrumental to every achievement. For my part, everything I have done for the charity has been my way of saying 'thank you' to Headway for supporting me after brain injury.

"A defining moment for me this weekend was meeting Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry VC at the awards ceremony. He told me that you can either dwell on the past version of yourself or you can move forward and make the best out of life. His words validated what I have always done and what I will indeed continue to do."

Carer of the Year

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Gwen and Natalie collect their awards from James Cracknell and a representative of award sponsor Withy KingGwen and Natalie Milham, from Lewes, jointly claimed the title of Carer of the Year.

In 1996, Gwen's 17-year-old son Nathan was hit by a car. He was left in a coma with a devastating brain injury. Gwen repeatedly rejected the option of turning off Nathan's life-support machine and Nathan gradually began to improve.

With the help of Headway Hurstwood Park, she and her husband Dave provided round-the-clock care for their son until tragedy struck again in 2005 when Dave sadly passed away having sustained a brain injury of his own.

Shortly afterwards, Gwen was diagnosed with breast cancer and Nathan's sister, Natalie, stepped in to help care for her brother. Gwen and Natalie continue to work as a team to provide daily care for Nathan and support each other.

Joining Gwen and Natalie on stage were fellow finalists Amy Perring and Maria Knights.

Like Gwen, it was Maria's son, Kyle, who sustained a brain injury after he was knocked off his scooter, just two days after his 16th birthday, by a drunk driver. Maria continues to dedicate her life to supporting Kyle and, with the support of Headway Suffolk, Kyle has now completed college courses in plastering and he is even driving again.

Amy met rugby journalist Will Wood on Valentine's Day in 2012, and their love quickly blossomed. When Will suffered a brain haemorrhage little more than a year later, Amy quickly put her life on hold to provide 24-hour care for Will, and the pair turned to Headway Gloucester for support. Today, Amy continues to support Will, and together they have even began writing an online blog called From Reporter to Supporter.

In a blog entry posted after the awards ceremony, Will wrote: "I cried a little bit. I would love to say this was down to my medication, but it was sheer pride. It was pride to know Amy but, more importantly, pride to be able to call her my girlfriend."

Amy said: "The whole nomination process has made me feel so loved. It is very exciting and humbling to be recognised for something you do naturally.

"Our main aim is to keep pushing forward as a team, and we hope that From Reporter to Supporter will reach out to others affected by brain injury as a reminder that they are not alone."

Stephen McAleese Outstanding Contribution to Headway Award

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Allistair Renton collects the award on behalf of Bill and StellaThe final award to be presented was The Stephen McAleese Outstanding Contribution to Headway Award, named in loving memory of a brave man who defied a brain injury to help others affected. It was awarded to Bill and Stella Jackaman, from Suffolk, to recognise 30 years of dedicated support at Headway Suffolk.

Stella had been working on a head injuries ward in West Suffolk when her own father tragically died as a result of a brain injury he sustained in a road traffic accident.

In 1985, Stella and her husband, Bill, decided to put their understanding of head injuries to good use and, with the help of their friend Shelia Sturgeon, the couple set up Headway West Suffolk.

Stella became manager and Bill was later elected Chairman of the group. Even when Stella retired from her role as manager nine years ago, she became a key advisor as President of the charity.

In October, the couple formally retired at the last ever AGM for Headway West Suffolk before it merged with Headway Ipswich and East Suffolk to form Headway Suffolk.

Sadly, Bill and Stella could not attend the ceremony. However, Stephen's parents, John and Susan, presented the award to Headway Suffolk Chairman, Allastair Renton, who accepted the award on the couple's behalf.

Margaret Bird, from Exeter, and Janice Stevenson, from Grangemouth, were also honoured as finalists.

Margaret first began volunteering in the kitchen at Headway Devon in 1997. For the past 17 years, Margaret's support of the charity has extended far beyond her voluntarily cooking for up to 30 people a day at several of the charity's day centres.

An incident at a local pub in 2008 left Janice's daughter with a serious brain injury. Later that year, she tragically passed away as a result of her injury and the family turned to Headway Falkirk for support. Since then, Janice has devoted her time to fundraising and organising events, raising almost £20,000 for the Headway group.

Many congratulations to all our our finalists!


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Headway - the brain injury association is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (Charity no. 1025852) and the Office of the Scottish Regulator (Charity no. SC 039992). Headway is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 2346893.

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